GOOD

Study: Going to Church Makes You Fat (UPDATED)

Scientists knew there was a correlation between religious involvement and obesity, but this new study proves the relationship is causal.

According to a new study by Northwestern University's School of Medicine, young adults who attend religious activities once a week or more are 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age than their non-church-going peers.


Previous studies had established a correlation between religious involvement and obesity, but this is the first time that researchers have established religious involvement as a contributing cause of weight gain. By tracking participants' weight over time and adjusting for differences in age, race, sex, education, income, and baseline body mass index, the Northwestern team was able to show that "normal weight younger adults with high religious involvement became obese, rather than obese adults becoming more religious."

What they haven't figured out is why that should be the case. According to Matthew Feinstein, the study's lead investigator:

We don't know why frequent religious participation is associated with development of obesity, but the upshot is these findings highlight a group that could benefit from targeted efforts at obesity prevention. It's possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity.

\n

The authors are quick to add that religious involvement is also associated with a range of positive health outcomes. In fact, previous studies have found that people who go to church frequently tend to live longer than those who aren't religious, smoke and drink less, and benefit from stronger social ties. Rather than turning people from their faith, Feinstein's hope is that churches will respond to these results by creating nutrition and exercise programs for their congregations:

Here's an opportunity for religious organizations to initiate programs to help their congregations live even longer. The organizations already have groups of people getting together and infrastructures in place that could be leveraged to initiate programs that prevent people from becoming obese and treat existing obesity.

\n

UPDATE: Reader Emily Hamburg replied to this post with comment that "You can't prove that one event causes another without a plausible mechanism!" While I admit that I don't know the accepted criteria for "causation" or a "plausible mechanism" among scientists, in this case the researchers do suggest a mechanism, and it seems plausible to me. Lead researcher Matthew Feinstein explained that, "It’s possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity."

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Seaners4real.

Articles

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Since normalizing relations with Communist China back in 1979, the U.S. government and its companies that do business with the country have, for the most part, turned a blind-eye to its numerous human rights abuses.

In China's Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, it's believed that over a million members of its Uighur population are being arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps. Female Uighurs in detention are being given forced abortions and subjected to sexual mistreatment.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

The vaping epidemic is like a PSA come to life. A recent outbreak of vaping-related deaths and illnesses has affected people from across 46 states. More than 800 people fell ill, and at least 17 people died from vaping. In Illinois and Wisconsin, 87% of the people who got sick said they used THC, and 71% of people also said they used products that contained nicotine. Symptoms of the illness included coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue. We finally might now why.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe toxic chemical fumes, not the actual chemicals in the vape liquid, might be the culprit. "It seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents," Dr. Brandon Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in release.

Keep Reading Show less
Health